When Worlds Collide
Luke 19: 28-40
Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Luke 19: 28-40
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, "The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Today is the day we remember what is often called “The Triumphal Entry” – Jesus entering Jerusalem on a lowly beast, surrounded by the shouts and cheers of the littlest and the least, who gathered with hope and joy to see the Messiah enter the holy city.
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” they shouted.
“Hosanna! God saves!” they cried.
They threw their cloaks before him, and cut branches to lay in his path.
A people oppressed and downtrodden, a people who had been waiting, breathless for hundreds of years, for God to fulfill God’s promise, now gathered at the city gates as the one who embodied all their hope entered in.
Old men wept to see him come; mothers with babes in arms held them up for a blessing; fathers spoke to their children, “Remember this, my child – remember that you were there on the day the Messiah came to save his people.”
We still celebrate with parades: returning heroes, commemorations of important days, holidays and homecomings. Standing there, on the sidewalk of the main street, watching the parade go past, there is something that makes the heart swell. In small towns, parades mark the significance of time, and place and people. Parades tell us something about ourselves:
what we value, who we honor, which stories we want to tell again and again.
In Silver Lake, where I was pastor for three years, we had parades all the time. There’s a parade on St. Patrick’s Day that lasts about 5 minutes, another on Memorial Day, not much longer. I’m told that in Darwin, Minnesota, proud home of the world’s largest twine ball, the Darwin Days parade is so brief that when they’ve completed the route, they all just go around again, to make it last longer. The big parade in Silver Lake is during Pola-Czesky days, during which the town used to celebrate their Czech and Polish heritage. Nowadays it’s a three-day beer-soaked street dance complete with a lawn-tractor pull, a lip-synch contest, church food booths with fried cheese curds and pork chops, and toilet bowl races on Main Street.
The entire celebration leads up to the big parade. Everybody in town goes.
They stake out their spots on the church lawn early in the morning, under the shade of a big chestnut tree, and applaud as the parade goes by. It begins with the American Legion honor guard, continues with the drum line and some antique tractors, and then come the floats: tractors pulling flatbed trailers on which are arrayed in all their glorious young beauty, the local festival queens from all the neighboring small towns. We have the Sausage Queen and her court, the Annandale Aquacade princesses, the Potato Queen, the County Dairy queens, the Cokato Corn Princesses – you get the idea.
Of course, there is also the reigning Pola-Czesky queen and her court, the candidates for coronation. After the parade, the visiting royalty wander around the tents and the food booths dressed in evening gowns and tiaras, eating corn dogs and cheese curds. I’m told they’re not allowed to have ketchup or mustard, lest their gowns be stained prior to their attendance at the Pola-Czesky coronation. It’s all about the coronation, after the parade.
I suppose that’s what the people lining that road to Jerusalem were thinking. This Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary, riding in on a donkey, was about to ascend to the throne.
He was going to set right all that had been wrong, overthrow the mighty and send the rich away empty, lift up the lowly and drive the occupying army out of the holy city.
But there was another parade entering the city that day. Crossan and Borg,
in their book, The Last Week, describe it:
“On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor
of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers… Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city.
A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums, the swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful.” (p. 3)
Borg and Crossan go on to describe how this intersection of processions-- one peasant, one imperial -- depict an essential conflict between rival social orders and rival theologies. Jesus and the peasants usher in the kingdom of God as a counter-procession to Pilate’s display of the power of empire.
It takes no great leap of imagination to see that this is happening still.
An unknown preacher from Birmingham leads demonstrations of non-violent resistance
to racial discrimination, and is met with violent resistance
in the form of clubs, and firehoses, and bullets.
Economic exploitation and greed collide with the limits of the free market,
and a global financial meltdown occurs.
Military might and hubris slam hard against entrenched cultural mores
and deeply imbedded resentments,
and a grinding war of attrition sucks away resources, and lives.
Rampant greed and the insatiable hunger for the next great thing
crash into mounting debt and the gnawing dissatisfaction of affluenza.
Religious conservatives who are certain of a literal interpretation of scripture
run head-on into religious progressives who seek a more nuanced understanding.
Wills and wants and words collide in our relationships and wound us
and those we love and live with.
When worlds collide, there are more losers than winners.
On the dusty road to Jerusalem, though, something else happens:
The palms give way to the passion.
Disappointment and disaster develop into deliverance.
Sorrow succumbs to salvation.
Fear is followed by freedom.
The kingdom of God is ushered in.
God’s way meets human ways, and instead of a train wreck, there is mercy.
In place of retribution there is restoration.
In lieu of damnation there is grace.
Pilate’s parade came into the city to suppress trouble,
to enforce the law, uphold order and quell an uprising.
Jesus’ parade came into the city to support the weak,
to fulfill the law, usher in a new order, and lift up the downtrodden.
We’re marching together in a parade today.
It begins with a procession of palms, and ends at the empty tomb.
On the way, on Maundy Thursday, we stop at the communion table.
There, we are called to remembrance. Lifting up the bread and cup together,
we are reminded of what we value, who we honor,
which stories we want to tell again and again.
At this table, two worlds collide:
God’s kairos breaks into our chronos;
heaven and earth meet;
peace and justice embrace;
the church militant meets the church triumphant;
Christ’s humiliation intersects with his exaltation;
the hungry are fed, the thirsty drink,
and the one who traveled that dusty road to the cross
welcomes us at the joyful feast.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest !